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Although this could very well be a picture of me finding a new treasure at a favorite nursery, it's actually an illustration by David Catrow for a children's book called Plantzilla.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Visiting the Rhododendron Gaden Nursery

It's always a joy to visit the nurseries of independent growers.  The Rhododendron Garden Nursery in Federal way is a one woman show. A retired school teacher,  Diane Bell is living her dream of propagating and selling plants at her seven acre nursery in Federal Way.  Check out a previous visit here.

The main sales area of the nursery has interesting and healthy plants beautifully displayed.  This Rhododendron sinogande is gorgeous!

I love walking through the whole place as there are finds around every corner. For instance this group of Sanguinaria canadensis 'Multiplex' (double flowered bloodroot) in large pots.  These sell for 20 to 30 dollars in four inch pots at most nurseries; here they'e $20.00 for these lager than gallon pots.


Here are the two that are now in my garden.  I had one that I bought here a year or so ago and it's cheerful blooms and interesting foliage brighten the deep shade of the bamboo grove.  Can one really have too much of a good thing?

In bloom were Kalmia latifolia (Mountain Laurel)  an eastern U.S. native.  They were tempting but it's been a banner year for these in my own garden so I didn't feel the need to get any more even though they were so inexpensive.  An attractive evergreen shrub with these long lasting flowers ranging from white to deep purple.

The buds are as interesting as the flowers themselves!  Are those sweet or what?  I have one that has florescent pink buds that open to the lightest pink flowers.

White buds open to this maoon and white bicolor.  Did I mention that these can tolerate a little shade?   I leaned from Diane that it takes three years to create a one gallon blooming specimen of Kalmia as they're very slow growers.

Rhododendron occidentale, the western azalea  is one of two deciduous azaleas native to the western U.S.  This is one beautiful and fragrant native!


Not so great for year round interest, hostas sure look great and even tropical during the summer!  

Who wouldn't love a plant that does all this in the shade?

This one was added to my collection!


I love the maple leaf pattern of variegation on some hostas.

There were many areas like this one.  Here we see trillium growing.  How exciting to think that these will be available next year.

The bright colors and fun flower forms of tuberous begonias always catch my eye.  

As the name of the nursery states, Rhododendrons are a specialty and there are acres of them.  Diane has photo albums of what the blooms of all of them look like should you shop when they're out of bloom. Shopping after bloom time is a great way to evaluate foliage.

Another specialty is hydrangeas.  I happened by the nursery just after most of the rhodies were finished blooming and just before the hydrangeas started.  There will be quite an explosion of color here very soon.

A hydrangea that doesn't need flowers to charm is Hydrangea quercifolia 'Little Honey'

 More plants being grown on.  It's a pleasure to walk though this nursery because of the park-like setting.  

Rhododendron stenopetalum.

 Even more rhododendrons. 

What's the price for nice two to five gallon potted specimens?  

R. 'Az Flame'  

There was a heavenly fragrance that stopped me in my tracks.  Turns out it was coming from this Rhododendron polyandrum.  The specimens were too large to fit into my car and this isn't hardy here and would need to be brought in during coldest part of the winter. So sad to leave it behind as that fragrance is amazing, like a fine perfume.  The good news is that she has more started that are too small to sell this year but might be ready next year.


I so enjoyed chatting with Diane.  At the end of our visit, she snapped off a flower from R. polyandrum so that I could take the fragrance home without taking the whole bush.  How cool is that?  The plant mobile smelled great all the way home!

27 comments:

  1. Oh, this looks like a fabulous place. I fear my R. sinogrande has bitten the dust. If not, it's very close, and I have no clue how to save it. I need a visit to this place to find something to replace it. Perhaps a Kalmia or a Hydrangea.

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    1. This is a fun place & is glorious when the hydrangeas are in bloom as there is a little forest of them planted on the grounds as well as all of the ones for sale.

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  2. What a fun visit with so many interesting things to see.

    I wish Hostas did that here. They mostly decline after taking months to come out of hibernation because they are waiting for the freezes that never came. I suspect that they are root-knot nematode sensitive as well. Royal Standard has persisted for 20 years but never did anything spectacular. Others have come and gone. I use gingers instead.

    Our successful rhododendrons are of the azalea kind, both those of asian origin and native azaleas. All that you show are some that I never saw before -- as you said, specialty plants.

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    1. Sorry that hostas don't perform better for you. If it makes you feel any better, we can't grow a really great large tomato here without a greenhouse.

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  3. Thanks for this! I sent people to Diane for years and have never visited myself...now I have to go. The Sanguinaria are beautiful. I'm one of those who paid a small fortune for a 4" pot several years ago.

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    1. I remember seeing the picture of yours which is beautiful. Diane says that a lady from the Midwest traveled out west by car and brought a flat of these out west riding on her lap. Some were given to Diane and she's been busy propagating them ever since.

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  4. I could almost love Rhododendrons if they were only fragrant, it's disappointing that the fragrant one is not hardy, but it is lovely. I guess the deciduous ones are fragrant, I was sorely tempted by them at one point. The downside of Rhodies for me is all the messy deadheading now that the blooms are gone. The double bloodroot sounds great, the leaves are very attractive. I'm coming up to Seattle in July for my nephew's wedding, I might be able to visit a nursery or so...

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    1. Oh, those deciduous azaleas are very fragrant! Yield to temptation! Being lazy, I don't deadhead rhododendrons and they seem just fine.

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  5. So much more here than I expected from the title of your post! One of these days I'm going to get serious about trying to grow R's. I inherited one when we moved here. It didn't do well for years so I transplanted it. Still, nothing to brag about. I really liked the hosta you showed here. Have never seen one with the maple leaf on it!

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    1. We sometimes forget how lucky we are to be able to grow rhododendrons here with little effort because of our climate and naturally slightly acidic soil. That hosta is a charmer!

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  6. Well that's my sort of nursery Peter-- wish it weren't so far from my bit of Oregon. Lots of great woodland stuff! Western azaleas are just the best and I do have some, but I need a few of the other things there. Nice how there is always more to long for... :)

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    1. These nurseries that are run by a single plant passionate person are some of my favorites. Of course, I love all nurseries but still, these are kind of special. Perhaps you could plan a plant buying spree to the Puget sound some time.

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  7. Your post made me miss going to Cornwall this year, with the gorgeous selection of rhododendrons they usually have there.

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    1. Oh well, there's always next year, right? Can't believe that the fling is only a few weeks away!

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  8. I love these nurseries that have grown out of a passion. The owners are invariably delightful people. Oh my, if only our sinogrande looked like that. Does it reside in a greenhouse year round? R. stenopetalum is a new one on me...the fine foliage hardly looks like a Rhody.

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    1. R. sinogrande might be kept with a little cover but she's got a very protected area there with all of the towering firs around. R. stenopetalum also has weird thread like blooms that don't look rhody like at all.

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  9. All that in a one-woman operation - impressive to say the least! After your earlier story about Lee Hiatt, I'm beginning to think that one in 10 PNW gardeners run plant nurseries on the side...

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    1. I think you're right! I'd do it in a flash if I had the time.

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  10. What a great place! The PNW needs to send some of these great plant people to northern VA to open some cool nurseries.

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    1. Or maybe the casa should move out west.

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    1. But...no agave. I guess the exception proves the rule.

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  12. I'll have to add this to my list of nurseries you have introduced me to that I have not yet discovered.

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    1. It's a great nursery for you as she carries mostly plants for shade!

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  13. What a great place, Peter, but what I liked the most is how you noticed the maple leaf pattern of variegation on hostas! Good eye! It does look like a maple leaf!

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    1. It's fun to study leaves and notice their patterns.

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Thanks so much for taking the time to comment! I love to hear your thoughts.